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Human Rights Council holds annual half-day panel discussion on the rights of indigenous peoples with a focus on the protection of indigenous human rights defenders

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23 septiembre de 2020

23 September 2020

Concludes Dialogue with the Commission of Inquiry on the Syrian Arab Republic ; Continues Dialogue with the Fact-Finding Mission on the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela

 

The Human Rights Council this afternoon held its annual half-day panel discussion on the rights of indigenous peoples, with a focus on the protection of indigenous human rights defenders.  The Council also concluded its interactive dialogue with the Independent International Commission of Inquiry on the Syrian Arab Republic and continued its interactive dialogue with the Independent International Fact-Finding Mission on the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela

Speaking on the protection of indigenous human rights defenders were Sweden on behalf of a group of countries, Mexico on behalf of a group of countries, European Union, Ecuador, Canada, Brazil, United Nations Children’s Fund, Pakistan, Ukraine, Colombia, Ireland, Philippines, Costa Rica, UN Women, Nepal, Armenia, 
Morocco, Spain, Venezuela, Senegal, South Africa, Indonesia and Viet Nam.

Also taking the floor were the following national human rights institutions and non-governmental organizations : Defensoria del Pueblo de Ecuador, International Movement Against All Forms of Discrimination and Racism, Franciscans International, Minority Rights Group, Ordem do Advogados do Brasil Conselho Federal, and Conectas Direitos Humanos.

At the beginning of the meeting, the Council concluded its interactive dialogue with the Independent International Commission of Inquiry on the Syrian Arab Republic.

Speaking on Syria were Venezuela, Kuwait (video message), Ecuador, Georgia, Cyprus, Nicaragua and Armenia.

Also taking the floor were the following non-governmental organizations : International Council Supporting Fair Trial, Next Century Foundation, Syrian Centre for Media and Freedom of Expression, Union of Arab Jurists, Women's International League for Peace and Freedom, Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies, Reporters Without Borders, Maat for Peace, Development and Human Rights Association, Partners for Transparency, Institute for NGO Research, and Association Ma'onah for Human Rights and Immigration.

The Human Rights Council also continued its interactive dialogue with the Independent International Fact-Finding Mission on the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela.

Speaking on Venezuela were the European Union, Peru on behalf of a group of countries, Liechtenstein, Germany, Slovenia, Portugal, Brazil, Ecuador, Cuba, France and Belgium

At the end of the meeting, Ethiopia spoke in right of reply.

The webcast of the Human Rights Council meetings can be found here.  All meeting summaries can be found here.  Documents and reports related to the Human Rights Council’s forty-fifth regular session can be found here.

The Council will meet again at 10 a.m. on Thursday, 24 September, to continue its general debate on the promotion and protection of all human rights, civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights, including the right to development.  It will resume its interactive dialogue with the Independent International Fact-Finding Mission on the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela on Thursday afternoon.

Interactive Dialogue with the Independent International Commission of Inquiry on the Syrian Arab Republic

The interactive dialogue with the Independent International Commission of Inquiry on the Syrian Arab Republic started on Tuesday, 22 September, and a summary can be found here.

Discussion

Expressing grave concerns about reports of demographic engineering, notably in the east of Syria, speakers called for a solution that maintained the unity, sovereignty and territorial integrity of the country.  The global ceasefire called for by the United Nations Secretary-General should be implemented immediately.  Some speakers drew attention to the situation of the Kurdish people while others flagged the adverse impact of sanctions on ordinary people.  The Syrian Government must put an end to sexual violence against detainees.  Speakers criticized the role played by other countries in the Syrian conflict, including the United States, Turkey, the United Kingdom, Israel and Iran.

Concluding Remarks

PAULO SÉRGIO PINHEIRO, Chair of the Independent International Commission of Inquiry on the Syrian Arab Republic, said Turkey had been a refuge for millions of Syrians, and played a unique role vis-a-vis political actors involved in the conflict in Syria.  He reiterated his willingness to engage in meaningful dialogues.

HANNY MEGALLY, Member of the Independent International Commission of Inquiry on the Syrian Arab Republic, urged unconditional access to detention centres by organizations like the International Committee of the Red Cross, as well as measures to prevent torture and sexual- and gender-based violence.  Sanctions, even when targeted and well-intentioned, could adversely affect the economy, which was in tatters, and thus heightened issues that were at the root of the conflict.

KAREN KONING ABUZAYD, Member of the Independent International Commission of Inquiry on the Syrian Arab Republic, flagged the compounding effect of the ongoing fighting, the corruption, the embezzlement of humanitarian aid, and the pandemic.  She expressed hope that Member States would urge the armed groups they were in contact with to show a greater respect for human rights.

Interactive Dialogue with the Independent International Fact-Finding Mission on the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela

The interactive dialogue with the Independent International Fact-Finding Mission on the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela started in the morning meeting and a summary can be found here.

Discussion

Speakers welcomed the increased cooperation between the Venezuelan authorities and the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, and took note of recent positive developments in Venezuela, such as the release of political prisoners.  Some speakers said each paragraph of the report was sober and factual, and reached categorical conclusions : since 2014, flagrant violations of the human rights of men and women had been found in Venezuela at the hands of public officials, law enforcement officials and authorities at all levels, including the highest.  The findings of the report of the Fact-Finding Mission were similar to that of the Organization of American States.  A peaceful and democratic transition was the only way forward, these speakers emphasized.  Other speakers denounced the dialogue as a campaign of media manipulation and rejected the Fact-Finding Mission as nothing more than an aggression.

Annual Half-Day Panel Discussion on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples

Opening Statements

NADA AL-NASHIF, United Nations Deputy High Commissioner for Human Rights, said indigenous human rights defenders were extraordinary people representing some of the most vulnerable communities in the world, additionally endangered now in the context of a global pandemic.  Reports of increased conflict and encroachment over indigenous lands in recent months pointed to yet further negative outcomes for indigenous peoples.  The short- and long-term social and economic consequences of COVID-19 were unlikely to improve the lives of indigenous peoples.  Indigenous peoples were often the first casualties of aggressive development models that violated traditional lands and transgressed on their natural resources.  However, sustainable development approaches could respect indigenous rights, in particular the collective nature of their rights and respect for their free, prior and informed consent.

AIDA QUILCUE VIVAS, Indigenous woman from the Nasa peoples of Colombia and Human Rights Counselor of the National Indigenous Organization of Colombia, said the 115 indigenous peoples of Colombia were at risk of physical and cultural extermination and on the threshold of genocide, as they continued, despite the peace agreements, to experience the systematic violations of their rights as indigenous peoples, and also their human rights.  Governments and the United Nations Special Rapporteurs on indigenous peoples and on human rights defenders should urge the Colombian Government to protect life, to guarantee the rights of indigenous peoples, and to protect the fundamental right of prior consultation.  She urged United Nations Special Rapporteurs to go in person to Colombia, notably in the Chocó, Cauca and Nariño regions, after the COVID-19 pandemic passed.

ANDREW ANDERSON, Executive Director of Front Line Defenders, said that one of the reasons why attacks on and killings of indigenous human rights defenders were so prevalent was because the perpetrators enjoyed almost total impunity.  The remote location of many indigenous peoples, and the lack of access to State authorities, resources and infrastructure, left these communities particularly vulnerable to attacks.  In fact, in the past three years, Front Line Defenders had documented the killing of 240 indigenous peoples’ rights defenders, over a quarter of the global total of human rights defenders killed.  This was a shockingly high statistic, given that indigenous peoples made up only an estimated 5 per cent of the global population.  The recognition of indigenous rights by States was essential for protecting indigenous defenders.  Given the collective nature of the work of indigenous defenders, and of the rights they defended, their protection must also be collective in nature.

VICTORIA TAULI-CORPUZ, Indigenous woman from the Kankanaey Igorot peoples of the Cordillera Region of the Philippines and former Special Rapporteur on the rights of indigenous peoples, pointed out that, according to the Global Witness report, there had been 212 reported cases of murders of human rights defenders in 2019, 40 per cent of which belonged to indigenous communities.  Over half of those killed were found in the Philippines and in Columbia.  All governments had to undertake impartial and prompt investigation measures to provide effective redress and reparations to the victims of criminalization and extrajudicial killings.  There should be a zero-tolerance approach to killings and violence targeting indigenous peoples' human rights defenders.  Legislation that created due diligence obligations for companies registered in their jurisdiction should be put in place. 

JOSEPH ITONGWA, Chair of the Board of Directors of the Indigenous Peoples Network for the Sustainable Management of Forest Ecosystems in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Director of the National Alliance for Support and Promotion of Areas and Territories Conserved by Indigenous Peoples and Local Communities in the Republic Democratic Republic of the Congo (video message), said that several external threats weighed on traditional lands and territories and the resources therein.  These indigenous lands had witnessed land dispossession, violence, forced expropriations and relocations, as well as land conflicts and evictions of indigenous Pygmy peoples.  Yet the Democratic Republic of the Congo had acceded to, and ratified, the international instruments protecting the rights of indigenous peoples.  He called on the Government of the Democratic Republic of the Congo to translate its international commitments into concrete actions at the national level, so as to address the problems faced by indigenous pygmies in the country.

Discussion

Speakers said impunity in relation to extrajudicial killings, torture and enforced disappearances as well as reprisals against indigenous representatives participating in United Nations mechanisms were unacceptable.  The work of human rights defenders was crucial to consolidate the rule of laws, democracy and accountability.  Underlining that States carried the primary responsibility to protect indigenous defenders undertaking legitimate actions to protect human rights, and to ensure accountability for any violations, speakers expressed their strong commitment to eliminating systemic racism in their respective countries and abroad.  How could States work together to ensure that women indigenous rights defenders had equal access to protection from violence and threats?  What further action could the Council take to ensure accountability for reprisals against human rights defenders?

Concluding Remarks

AIDA QUILCUE VIVAS, Indigenous woman from the Nasa peoples of Colombia and Human Rights Counselor of the National Indigenous Organization of Colombia, asked States to urgently provide help to ensure the monitoring, investigations and follow-up of human rights in Colombia.  She asked the Council to appeal to the Government to implement the Peace Accord.

ANDREW ANDERSON, Executive Director of Front Line Defenders, said the Special Rapporteurs on the rights of indigenous peoples and on human rights defenders, while doing good work, had insufficient resources at their disposal.  In addressing the issues discussed today, an intersectional approach was critical, as a number of speakers had underlined.

VICTORIA TAULI-CORPUZ, Indigenous woman from the Kankanaey Igorot peoples of the Cordillera Region of the Philippines and former Special Rapporteur on the rights of indigenous peoples, said that, after having heard the commitments made by delegates that had just spoken, it would be interesting to see how they would address the issues discussed in their own countries.  She stressed that indigenous women and children were more vulnerable to attacks.

JOSEPH ITONGWA, Chair of the Board of Directors of the Indigenous Peoples Network for the Sustainable Management of Forest Ecosystems in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Director of the National Alliance for Support and Promotion of Areas and Territories Conserved by Indigenous Peoples and Local Communities in the Republic Democratic Republic of the Congo, said that Human Rights Council mechanisms could help indigenous peoples by ensuring accountability from States.  What was good for the human rights defenders was good for the States, as they stood to gain from a more sustainable management of lands, he added.

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For use of the information media; not an official record

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